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Monday, August 31, 2015

Hockey Culture - A Thank You from a D Level Hack by @ChrisRBarron

Photo courtesy of @TheBourbonCaps
Too often in today's world the word "culture" takes on a decidedly negative connotation. The culture wars, a gun culture, a rape culture, the coarsening of our culture, etc. I will leave it to others to debate these issues, I write today about a very different "culture" - hockey culture. 

Yesterday, I had the tremendous honor of skating in the DC Hockey Media vs Warriors USA charity hockey game at the Capitals practice facility (a special thanks to my PI brother +Nicholas Case  who participated too and was responsible for getting me involved). The event was a fundraiser to benefit the USA Warriors.  The USA Warriors Ice Hockey program’s mission is to organize and administer an ice hockey program that provides a recreational, therapeutic experience and education for those wounded in defense of our country. 

The program educates, trains, motivates, and encourages the formation of  “USA Warrior Hockey Programs” locally and nationally while encouraging individuals who have physical disabilities incurred during service to the United States to participate in the sport of ice hockey in an environment that is adapted to the level of their ability.

The guys of the USA Warrior program are real life heroes – and for these heroes hockey is more than a game, and they aren’t alone.

As I sat in the locker room, lacing up my skates beside two former NHL players - Craig Laughlin and Ken Sabourin - I was reminded of the beauty and power of hockey culture. Here I am a hockey hack, a D level beer league guy, getting ready to skate with guys who played in the NHL.  How frigging amazing is that?

But it’s more than that - much more. Outside of that locker room we are all different people. We come from different backgrounds:  we are young and old, wealthy and struggling, gay and straight, well known and anonymous. We can be black or white, male or female, white collar or working class, Democrat or Republican. In that locker room, however, we are all just hockey players. 

As I skated out onto the ice to play against veterans who have sacrificed much for our country, I was once again reminded of the beauty and equality of hockey culture. For three glorious periods all of us left our differences and our problems and our worries aside. For that time on the ice we were just hockey players playing the game we love. 

It's often been a struggle for me to fit in. For most of my life I have felt like an outsider - never quite feeling that I belonged anywhere. That all changed when I started playing hockey a few years ago. 

From the first times I struggled to stay up right on skates I have felt embraced by and accepted by other hockey players. Hockey has never felt like an exclusive club, its felt more like a giant family. 

There is a lot ugly in our world, more suffering and pain and despair than most of us care to think about.  So often our differences are used to divide us and pit us against each other; and for many of us, even in this age of technology connecting us, there are feelings of real isolation. For those of us who play the game, hockey can be an island of peace in a sea of tumult.

So while I am not a wounded warrior, I can understand why hockey can be so therapeutic for our brave men and women who have sacrificed in defense of our country.  I can understand, because while I am not a hero, hockey – and hockey culture – has been therapy for me.

So thanks to everyone who has every laced up the skates and thank you to hockey – you have given me more than you will ever know.

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